Review: Batman: Secret Files trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

If ever there was an example of collected comics being a complicated world often without clear answers, it’s Batman: Secret Files.

This is not a book we needed, but a book we couldn’t do without. In the Infinite Frontier era, DC’s been publishing a lot of anthologies and padding their core titles with backup stories, which seems to be a comics trend. It’s lead to uncertainty how a variety of material will be collected, if at all. Of the six issues collected here, four are also collected elsewhere; buying a trade for just two issues isn’t ideal, but neither is having those two issues go uncollected.

An better situation for Secret Files might go something like this: the Peacekeeper-01 and Huntress issues, taking place between issues of Batman and Detective Comics respectively (and also collected, respectively, in Batman: Fear State Saga and Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2: Fear State), might just be issues of or backups for those titles. Collect those only with those books, and replace with something else here. The Miracle Molly and Gardner issues, collected somewhat arbitrarily in Batman: Fear State Saga, might just be collected here, with Fear State Saga instead populated with more relevant Bat-family issues.

Review: New Gods Book Two: Advent of Darkness trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 25, 2022

[A series on post-Jack Kirby New Gods titles by guest reviewer Zach King. Zach writes about movies at The Cinema King and about comics on Instagram at Dr. King’s Comics.]

“I had loved The New Gods since the series premiered. It was truly Kirby’s masterpiece. … I had always loved collaborating with Mark Evanier, so it was an easy decision.” - Rick Hoberg

While the first post-Crisis trade collection of New Gods spent its time wallowing where Jack Kirby had gone before, New Gods Book Two: Advent of Darkness, collecting issues #15–28, moves a bit further forward, albeit by going back into the past. You may find yourself scratching your head on that notion, but that means you’re in good territory; much of Kirby’s later output wrestled with the fundamentally ineffable (see also 2001, The Eternals, Silver Star, etc.) and it’s only appropriate that his inheritors would similarly tread upon unfathomable ground.

Review: New Gods Book One: Bloodlines trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

[A series on post-Jack Kirby New Gods titles by guest reviewer Zach King. Zach writes about movies at The Cinema King and about comics on Instagram at Dr. King’s Comics.]

“DC started this series with another writer … So right there you have six issues where no one was at the wheel … I was so mired in the wrong direction I didn’t know how to get out of it. It was not a very good comic, and I deserve a pretty good share of the blame.” - Mark Evanier

In hindsight, we can look back at the conditions that drove Jack Kirby away from DC Comics in the 1970s and back into the arms of his erstwhile employer Marvel and think, “Were they crazy?” If you have the King working for you, wouldn’t you do anything to keep him? And if you’re going to resurrect his most earnest creative property - the New Gods of the Fourth World - wouldn’t you want him to do it?

DC Trade Solicitations for March 2023 - Absolute Superman for All Seasons, Batman: One Bad Day: Riddler and Box Set, Jurassic League, Superman 85th Anniversary and Space Age, Justice League Vol. 3 by Bendis, Shazam!: Power of Hope, Blood Syndicate

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Y’know, a little of this, a little of that in the DC Comics March 2023 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations. Couple of regular series collections I’ll be getting — Tina Howard’s next Catwoman and the final volumes and/or final volumes of the current creative teams in Detective Comics Vol. 4, Future State: Gotham Vol. 3, and Brian Michael Bendis' Justice League Vol. 3. But nothing I’d call earth-shattering.

Honestly, just based on the scuttlebutt, the one I’m most excited about here is Batman — One Bad Day: The Riddler. Yes a whole 'other series of one-shots about Batman’s rogues seems a bit of creative bankruptcy (Lex Luthor is over crying in a corner how nobody loves him), letting alone then re-releasing said one-shots apparently completely unaltered as a series of hardcovers, but I like a lot of the teams on these and there’s been some good words coming out about them, so consider me intrigued. Also Mark Russell and Mile Allred on Superman: Space Age sounds like a ton of fun.

So let’s get into it and check out the full list. Also I have just done this.

Absolute Superman for All Seasons

A story well-deserved of an Absolute edition, all the more meaningful with the untimely death of Tim Sale. This includes not only the four issue miniseries, but also Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s work from Superman #226, Superman/Batman #26, Solo #1, and Superman/Batman Secret Files 2003 #1 as well as forewords by Loeb and Richard Starkings.

Batman — One Bad Day Box Set

If I’m reading this right, what you get for $45 is just the hardcover reprinting of Batman: One Bad Day: Riddler (by Tom King and Mitch Gerads; I’ve heard it’s good) and a new printing of Batman: The Killing Joke and that’s it, and then the box is big enough to hold the rest of the hardcovers when they’re released later on. Which is … unusual, and also I’m exceptionally curious how they will package this so the semi-empty box doesn’t get crushed in transit.

Batman — One Bad Day: The Riddler

So it seems like DC intends to take each of the "Batman: One Bad Day" 64-page one-shots and re-release them as individual hardcovers. The page count says 88 pages, but the solicitation doesn't suggest, like, some classic story included, so maybe that's just the title page and variant covers. By Tom King and Mitch Gerads; reviews have been positive.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 4: Riddle Me This

Issues #1059–1061 by Mariko Tamaki and marking the end of Tamaki’s run on the series, ahead of Ram V. Said to also include the “Gotham Girl, Interrupted,” backup stories by Sina Grace and David Lapham.

Batman: Fear State Saga

Paperback of the comprehensive collection, including Batman #112-117, Batman Secret Files: The Gardener #1, Batman Secret Files: Peacekeeper #1, Batman Secret Files: Miracle Molly #1, Batman: Fear State: Alpha #1, and Batman: Fear State: Omega #1. In review I found this a better way to read "Fear State", though still somewhat lacking.

Blood Syndicate: Season One

In hardcover, the first collection of the relaunched series by Geoffrey Thorne and ChrisCross.

Catwoman Vol. 2: Cat International

Second volume by Tini Howard, in paperback in May.


Hardcover collection of the six-issue Duo Milestone miniseries by Greg Pak and Khoi Pham, reimagining the classic Xombi series as part of the new Milestone's "Earth-M" line.

Fann Club: Batman Squad

Comedy young readers graphic novel by Jim Benton.

Future State: Gotham Vol. 3: Batmen at War

In paperback in April, the final Future State: Gotham collection by Dennis Culver, collecting issues #13-18.

The Jurassic League

Daniel Warren Johnson and Juan Gedeon’s inspired Justice-League-as-dinosaurs miniseries, in hardcover in April.

Justice League Vol. 1: Prisms

In paperback in April, following the hardcover, and collecting Brian Michael Bendis' issues #59–63.

Justice League Vol. 3: Leagues of Chaos

Brian Michael Bendis' final Justice League issues. Said to be issues #72-74 and the Justice League 2022 Annual.

Legends of the Dark Knight: José Luis García-López

In hardcover in April and said to collect Batman #272, #311, #313, #314, #318, #321, #336-337, and #353, Batman '66: The Lost Episode #1, Batman Confidental #26-28, Batman: Family #3, Batman: Dark Knight of the Round Table #1-2, Batman: Gotham Knights #10, Batman: Reign of Terror #1, DC Comics Presents #31 and #41, DC Special Series #21, Detective Comics #454, #458-459, #483, and #487, Best of the Brave and the Bold #1-6, Brave and the Bold #164 and #171, Joker #4, Untold Legend of the Batman #1-3, and World's Finest Comics #244, #255, and #258.

The Phantom Stranger Omnibus

This was previously announced in DC Comics Fall 2020 solicitations in March 2020, so not entirely surprising it never made it to print. Next scheduled for November 2022, now it's pushed to August 2023. Sorry, but I'll believe it when I see it. Contents said to be The Phantom Stranger #1-6 (1952), The Phantom Stranger #1-41 (1969), stories from Saga of the Swamp Thing #1-13, Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #18, Brave and the Bold #89, #98, and #145, Showcase #80, Justice League of America #103, House of Secrets #150, DC Super-Stars #18, Secret Origins #10, and DC Comics Presents #25 and #72.

Shazam!: Power of Hope

In time for the movie, new hardcover printing of the illustrated prose story by Paul Dini and Alex Ross.

Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil

Also in time for the movie, in hardcover, collecting the four-issue miniseries by Jeff Smith.

Superman: Son of Kal-El Vol. 1: The Truth

Paperback collection of the first six issues by Tom Taylor and John Timms, following the hardcover. I enjoyed this one, realizing all the potential of the Infinite Frontier era.

Superman: Space Age

I don't know what this is, except it's Mark Russell and Mike Allred, it takes place during Crisis on Infinite Earths, and it seems to follow Superman through U.S. history. I'm in. In hardcover collecting the three-issue miniseries.

Superman: The 85th Anniversary Collection

Said to collect Action Comics (vol. 1) #1–2, #23, #60, #182, #305, #395, #473, #643, #732; Action Comics (vol. 2) #7; Superman (vol. 1) #1, #30, #65, #133, #167, #287, #400; Superman (vol. 2) #1, #81; Superman (vol. 5) #18; Superman: The Man of Steel #1; Superman Confidential #1; World’s Finest Comics #176; DC Comics Presents #26; and Superman: Rebirth #1. Also, a 10-issue Superman miniseries by Christopher Priest and Carlo Pagulayan? I’m there from the first white-text-on-black-box scene title.

Top 10 Compendium

Collects America's Best Comics Special, Smax #1-5, Top Ten #1-12, Top Ten: The Forty-Niners, Top Ten: Beyond the Farthest Precinct #1-5, and Top Ten: Season 2 #1-4 and Top Ten: Season 2 Special by Alan Moore, Zander Cannon, and Gene Ha.

Review: Catwoman Vol. 6: Fear State trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

I’ll note at the top of my review of Catwoman Vol. 6: Fear State that between Catwoman Vol. 5: Valley of the Shadow of Death and this one, DC appears to have dropped an issue, Catwoman #33. Catwoman Vol. 5 ends with issue #32 and the Catwoman annual, and Catwoman Vol. 6 opens with issue #34. It’s no small issue, either, as it reveals the identity of the man who’s been assisting Catwoman from the shadows throughout Ram V’s run, as well as introducting an altruistic gang of rogues who factor in later. I don’t think it affected my enjoyment of Catwoman Vol. 6 that much — I chalked what confusion I had originally to my faulty memory before I realized the missing issue — but it’s an unfortunate gaffe on DC’s part.

So, Ram V ultimately wrote about 14 issues of Catwoman plus the annual. Of those, four were tie-ins to exterior Batman series events, making Ram V’s independent take even smaller. As is often the way of these things, it’s hard to puzzle out what Ram V might’ve been trying to do in his run, where he suceeded and where the needs of the whole brought him up short, except for the reader’s sense that something didn’t go quite as planned.

Review: Nightwing: Fear State hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 11, 2022

I’d thought it was a little silly that DC didn’t number the Nightwing: Fear State collection as “Vol. 2,” leaving perhaps the less-informed to go straight from issue #83 to issue #87 without direction.

But having read it, while enjoyable, the Nightwing “Fear State” volume really does feel like a tangent from Tom Taylor’s Nightwing proper, and especially without series artist Bruno Redondo in tow. It’s in some ways more of a backdoor pilot for the new Batgirls series than it is a Nightwing story proper, and there was probably an argument to be made for cutting the Nightwing Annual and Batman: Urban Legends stories from this book and including the “Batgirls” backups from the Batman book instead.

(While Batman and Nightwing don’t quite intersect in “Fear State”, Nightwing and the “Batgirls” backups in the “Fear State” issues of Batman do. See my review of Batman: Fear State Saga; a “full” collection of “Fear State” — perhaps-too-long, but reasonable to read — might’ve included Batman #112–117, including the “Batgirls” backups, plus Nightwing #84–86, probably give-or-take some Catwoman and Harley Quinn issues, instead of the lightly related Secret Files DC populated the book why instead.)

Review: Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2: Fear State hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Mariko Tamaki’s Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2: Fear State is fantastic, offering just about everything I could want from a Batman comic, buoying even the rough holdovers from the last volume. And Dan Mora’s art is breathtaking — can’t wait for his World’s Finest.

Granted, this book has nothing to do with “Fear State” whatsoever, and it challenges the belief of even the most ardent continuity wonk that these events could be happening beside the Batman title, but no matter. This is Batman at his high politics finest.

[Review contains spoilers]

I’m not sure the word “Scarecrow” is even spoken in Detective Comics Vol. 2: Fear State. At best, the book keeps telling us that the main “Fear State”-branded events happen alongside Batman #113 in Batman Vol. 5: Fear State (purportedly at the same time Batman is involved in a virtual reality jaunt inside his own head with Ghost-Maker) and there’s one reference to Peacemaker-01 having gone rogue.

Review: Batman: Fear State Saga hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, December 04, 2022

Batman: Fear State Saga has learned some lessons from James Tynion’s Bat-crossover previous, but I wonder if they were quite the right lessons.

That is, inasmuch as I enjoyed Batman Vol. 2: The Joker War and some of its sundry event items, my own two chief complaints would be this: During a rebuilding time for the Bat-family titles, the tie-ins from books like Nightwing and Batgirl were pretty rough, and the Batman: The Joker War Zone special was only collected in the The Joker War Saga collection and nowhere else. As someone who read all the tie-in series in their own individual trades, I didn’t need Saga, but then had to swing back around to find Joker War Zone as a single issue (perish the thought!) to read its stories.

[Review contains spoilers]

In terms of crossover structure, there’s a lot happening in James Tynion’s “Fear State.” There is, on one level, Batman’s main action. Below that is the subplot action that dips in and out of Tynion’s Batman book — Tynion’s been featuring Harley Quinn, so Harley’s side-quest to resurrect Poison Ivy starts here, peels off into Harley Quinn for a while (invisible to the Batman reader), then ends in Batman again. Similarly Batgirls' “anti-Oracle” plot starts here but then disappears altogether (perhaps into the Batgirls backup stories running alongside Tynion’s Batman, though they’re neither reprinted in Batman Vol. 5: Fear State nor Fear State Saga).

Review: Batman Vol. 5: Fear State hardcover/paperback (DC Comic)

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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

James Tynion’s foreshortened Batman run — which was never supposed to be very long, then was, then wasn’t again — will ultimately be remembered for its bookend events — Joker War at the start, and Batman Vol. 5: Fear State at the end. Each is a large-scale piece spotlighting the peculiarities of one of Batman’s key villains, each has as a significant backdrop a Gotham City in chaos.

Where they differ is in where they fall in the alpha and omega of Tynion’s run — Batman Vol. 2: The Joker War, at the beginning, a mostly traditional story of Batman and his Bat-family facing off against the Joker, and Fear State, at the end, which absents the Bat-family almost entirely and for which almost every set player is either new or in a new role. As such, it’s hard to choose the better — Joker War offers the delicious, personal rivalry between Batman and the Joker, while if Fear State’s villains lack the heft of shared history, they’re fascinating in their newness.

DC Trade Solicitations for February 2023 - Batman/Spawn Deluxe, Flash movie tie-ins, Sandman Mystery Theatre Compendium and Nightmare Country, DCeased: War of Undead Gods, Batman by Zdarsky, Deathstroke Year One, Multiversity: Teen Justice

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Well — checks internet — apparently the new Flash movie is scheduled for June 23, 2023, and DC seems to be gearing up in the DC Comics February 2023 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations, at least a little bit, with trades of the new Flash: Fastest Man Alive tie-in miniseries arriving, along with new collections of the 1989 Batman movie adaptation and Flashpoint (and thus, verily, between these three, the whole plot of the movie). Based on Black Adam and this, seems DC’s on a “couple of trades and a box set of the same” kick for their new movies, which seems fine with me for as long as it works.

Plenty good “regular series” trades this month, including Naomi: Season Two, Joshua Williamson’s Robin Vol. 3, Deathstroke Inc. Vol. 2, and Tom Taylor’s latest (and last?) DCeased volume. Sandman Mystery Theatre might finally be getting the full collection we’ve all been waiting for, and I’m jazzed Sandman Universe is continuing such that I have a reason to read those original post-Dark Nights: Death Metal volumes after all.

Oh, and Batman/Spawn fans get a treat or a trick, depending on how you look at it, but it might be enough to get me to read these myself …

Let’s take a look at the full list.

Batman Vol. 1: Failsafe Hc

In hardcover in March, the first collection by Chip Zdarsky and Jorge Jimenez. Collects issues #125-130.

Batman Vol. 5: Fear State TP

The paperback collection of the final Batman event by James Tynion, collecting issues #112–117.

The Batman Who Laughs: The Deluxe Edition HC

Deluxe-size hardcover collection of the miniseries and specials by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Eduardo Risso.

Batman: The 1989 Movie Adaptation TP

Timed for the new Flash movie, this is the immensely well-regarded adaptation of the Tim Burton movie, written by Dennis O’Neil and drawn by Jerry Ordway.

Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham (New Edition) TP

New paperback printing of the Lovecraft-ian 2000 Elseworlds miniseries written by Mike Mignola, who also drew covers, and Richard Pace, with art by Troy Nixey.

Batman/Spawn: The Deluxe Edition HC

Apparently this collects the brand-new 2022 Batman/Spawn one-shot by Todd McFarlane and Greg Capullo, plus the 1994 Batman/Spawn: War Devil #1 by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant, and Klaus Janson and the original Spawn/Batman #1 by Frank Miller and McFarlane, with behind-the-scenes art. Which is a great collection, unless just a few weeks ago you bought Batman/Spawn: The Classic Collection, a hardcover that collects just the two original comics. Then this might sting a little bit. Coming in April.

DC vs. Vampires Vol. 2 HC

Second (and final?) hardcover collection by James Tynion, Matthew Rosenberg, and Otto Schmidt; collects issues #7–12.

DCeased: War of the Undead Gods HC

No issues listed, but it seems like this is the entire eight-issue miniseries, completing Tom Taylor’s fantastic trilogy. In hardcover and on sale in September.

Deathstroke Inc. Vol. 2: Year One HC

In paperback in February, the second series collection, written by Ed Brisson. Collects issues #10-15.

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive Box Set TP

Collects together the three Flash-movie related books also solicited here — The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive, Flashpoint, and Batman: The 1989 Movie Adaptation.

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive TP

Collects the three-issue miniseries in paperback that bridges the Justice League movie and Flash. Wouldn’t you call this comics' first foray into the Snyderverse?

Flashpoint (2023 Edition) TP

A reprint, same as earlier ones, timed for the new Flash movie.

Harley Quinn Vol. 3: Verdict HC

Issues #13–17 by Stephanie Phillips and Riley Rossmo, in hardcover in March. Previously this was said to include some/all of the Harley Quinn 30th Anniversary Special, but that's not in the latest solicitations.

I Am Batman Vol. 2 HC

In hardcover in March, the second collection, issues #6-10, by John Ridley, Christian Duce, and Ken Lashley.

Infinite Frontier TP

Paperback of Infinite Frontier #0–6 and Infinite Frontier: Secret Files by Joshua Williamson, following the hardcover.

JSA by Geoff Johns Book Five TP

The fifth large-page-count collection of Geoff Johns' JSA, collecting Hawkman #23–25 and JSA #46–58, being the Princes of Darkness and the Black Adam-focused Black Reign collections.

Legends of the DC Universe: Carmine Infantino HC

In hardcover in March and said to include selections from Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog #4, All-American Comics #95, All-Star Comics #40, Brave and the Bold #49, Comic Cavalcade #28, Danger Trail #1–4, DC Comics Presents #73, Detective Comics #327, Flash Comics #86 and #90, Flash #112 and #123, House of Mystery #296, Mystery in Space #3, Secret Hearts #8, Secret Origins #17, Sensation Comics #87, Showcase #4, Strange Adventures #205, and Western Comics #73.

Multiversity: Teen Justice TP

It's very fun to see DC using Grant Morrison's "Multiversity" moniker for other stories and letting the concept see light with other creators. Here's Danny Lore and Ivan Cohen's Flash and Teen Justice stories from Multiversity: Teen Justice #1-6, DC Pride 2022, and DC's Very Merry Multiverse #1. There's one other Flash Kid Quick story in DC Pride 2021 that they ought include here too. In paperback in March.

Naomi: Season Two HC

In hardcover, the six-issue Season Two miniseries by Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker, and Jamal Campbell. I’ve been streaming the CW series of late to see how it translates.

Power Girl: Power Trip TP

Not particularly sure what prompted this hereabouts, but due in March is a collection of the first 12 issues of the Power Girl series by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, along with the four-issue arc from JSA Classified with Geoff Johns.

Robin Vol. 3: Secrets and Shadows TP

The final volume of the Joshua Williamson series, in paperback in March. Collects issues #13–17.

Sandman Mystery Theatre Compendium One TP

In paperback in March, collecting Sandman Mystery Theatre #1–36 and the Sandman Mystery Theatre Annual #1, with an introduction by Patton Oswalt. Collects the previous trades The Tarantula, The Face and the Brute, The Vamp, The Scorpion, Dr. Death and the Night Butcher, and The Hourman and the Python. Given 70 total issues, including some previously uncollected, DC should be able to wrap this up in one more volume.

The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country Vol. 1 HC

Not only am I looking forward to Sandman-related horror by James Tynion, but how wonderful to learn too that it heralds a sequel and other new Sandman Universe titles. Guess those are back higher on my reading list now — and at last a DC imprint with some staying power! In hardcover in April.

The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country Vol. 1 TP

Paperback version of the same, coming in April; collects issues #1–6.

Task Force Z Vol. 2: What's Eating You? HC

Second hardcover by Matthew Rosenberg and Eddy Barrows, collecting the final issues, #7–12.

Review: Mister Miracle by Steve Englehart and Steve Gerber hardcover (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

[A series on post-Jack Kirby New Gods titles by guest reviewer Zach King. Zach writes about movies at The Cinema King and about comics on Instagram at Dr. King’s Comics.]

"Marshall Rogers and I had some free time so they revived Mister Miracle for us […] I guess my only trepidation was, the Fourth World was very identified with [Kirby], and I would be showing him up. But as I say, I was assigned to it by DC.” — Steve Englehart

When the Fourth World went out with a whimper in 1972, it had something like a stay of execution in the Mister Miracle title, which Jack Kirby was allowed to continue for another seven bimonthly issues. Kirby tried to make the titular escape artist more casually superheroic (including the debut of kid sidekick Shilo Norman), but the King couldn’t resist his more cosmic impulses for long. In the final issue, readers were invited to the wedding of Scott Free and Big Barda, with all the forces of New Genesis and Apokolips in attendance. Even Darkseid crashed the wedding party, announcing dramatically, “I am the storm!”

Review: Future State: Gotham Vol. 2: The Next Joker trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Story-wise, Future State: Gotham Vol. 2: The Next Joker is hardly the most complicated book DC Comics is putting out; indeed Next Joker fails in delivering the very thing it promises. But no question that as a manga-influenced black-and-white comic, Future State: Gotham is perhaps the most ambitious title in DC’s line right now, the one most unlike anything else they’re offering. And while Dennis Culver’s story is not particularly complex, he gets the characters' voices pretty well, and there’s a mix of unexpected cameos and character updates and Future State world-building that I adore.

I estimate Future State: Gotham’s only got one more volume to go, but I’m very glad DC took a chance on this.

Review: New Gods by Gerry Conway hardcover (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

[Welcoming back guest reviewer Zach King for a series on post-Jack Kirby New Gods titles. Zach writes about movies at The Cinema King and about comics on Instagram at Dr. King’s Comics.]

“Honestly, I think there was really only one New Gods — the series that Jack did. Everything that followed was a pale imitation of that — including my own stuff.” — Gerry Conway

Any comics fan worth their salt knows that “there came a time when the old gods died,” the famous opening salvo in Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Saga. From 1970 to 1974, Kirby wove his New Gods epic across four titles before cancellations and editorial disinterest drove him back to Marvel Comics, from whence he had come. (Kirby had left Marvel after disputes with Stan Lee over creative control; see John A. Morrow’s Kirby & Lee: Stuf' Said! for the whole story.)

Review: Refrigerator Full of Heads hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Rio Youers and Tom Fowler’s Refrigerator Full of Heads takes Joe Hill’s original Basketful of Heads and, well, turns it on its head.

What had previously been the mostly realistic story (except for the animate severed heads) of a woman stalked by criminals across an island becomes now something (even) more supernatural, as the story of the magic axe deepends and its utility expands. Even more blood-soaked but also more zany, Refrigerator doesn’t quite capture Basktful’s perfection, but neither is it necessarily trying to.

If we end up with a trilogy, I’d as soon something that hearkens more to the first than the second. But, Refrigerator is fine as a sequel and an expression of a different author’s vision, a satisfyingly madcap entry in the (otherwise ended?) Hill House line.

Review: Titans United trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Given a Titans book that seemed mainly intended to profit off the (well-deserved, but perhaps small) fandom of the HBO Max Titans TV show, but that is not so brave as to be actually set in the TV Titans timeline (so, of uncertain continuity providence, which is often disastrous), and written by an author with few-to-no DC writing credits, I had justifiably low expectations for Titans United.

So I was pleased to find that it was fine, really. There will be no awards for plumbing heretofore undiscovered depths of the Marv Wolfman/George Perez characters, but at the same time, Titans United is refreshing in its simplicity. We neither need to know or care “who is Donna Troy,” nor does Nightwing have to check out in the second issue due to events over in the Bat-books.

Review: Wonder Woman: Evolution hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Ordinarily I’m relative sanguine about bad portrayals of the world’s greatest superheroes. Batman acts the fool under one writer’s pen, there’s surely another story on the way that’ll rectify it, and no doubt the character can withstand it in popular culture anyway.

But Stephanie Phillips' Wonder Woman: Evolution feels like a particularly egregious missed opportunity. Given DC’s glut of miniseries lately, and particularly Black Label miniseries, I continue to think Wonder Woman offers potential for lots of light- to no-continuity offerings — superheroic, mythological, horror, and so on. Evolution is an eight-issue swing-and-a-miss, and with Wonder Woman, one always has to be concerned that that’ll make DC less likely to try again.

Review: Green Arrow/Aquaman: Deep Target trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

I appreciate the creative thinking that went into Aquaman/Green Arrow: Deep Target as a project — these two heroes, neither particularly similar to the other (beside a penchant for facial hair), neither even sharing a cinematic universe, but having debuted in the same comic some 80 years ago, getting their first miniseries together.

The sensible nonsense of it all is wonderful, and writer Brandon Thomas keeps that spirit throughout the book, which sees Green Arrow and Aquaman dealing with time travel, secret moon bases, and rampaging dinosaurs. It is as zany as you might want a comic to be. Which is why it’s so unfortunate that despite the great layers of sci-fi complication that Thomas piles on here, he forgets the most important element — celebrating Aquaman and Green Arrow.

Review: Batman: The Long Halloween Special #1 (2021) comic book (DC Comics)

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Sunday, October 30, 2022

I was very happy when DC Comics announced a new Batman: The Long Halloween Special (happy enough to plan a whole “Long Halloween saga” re-read), though I did wonder if creators Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale could recapture the magic in just one issue. There’s precedent, of course, in the single-issue Batman Halloween specials that preceded Batman: The Long Halloween (now collectively known as Haunted Knight) — we’ve come full circle, from the three individual Halloween specials that begot two 13-issue miniseries (and another half as long), which now inspired a special of its own. But could Loeb and Sale do in one issue what they’d previously done best in a baker’s dozen?

[Review contains spoilers]

That answer is no, though I thoroughly enjoyed the Long Halloween Special nonetheless, a return to form after the less impressive Catwoman: When in Rome. Neither Rome nor the special are necessarily mysteries, making them each lesser than Long Halloween and Dark Victory, but the special brings back the gritty Gotham air that Rome lacked, not to mention Long Halloween stalwarts Two-Face and Calendar Man. As a first issue, as the special was perhaps intended to be, the special certainly evokes slipping back in to Halloween’s noir world.

Review: Blue & Gold trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

I was thinking of late how quickly “I remember everything” came and went in the finale of Dark Nights: Death Metal and the start of the Infinite Frontier era. Granted I’m not reading Dark Crisis yet, but if there’s an “everything” that anyone’s remembered outside of Death Metal, I haven’t seen evidence of it yet.

At the same time, Infinite Frontier has brought first Batgirls and now Blue & Gold, so I don’t have all that much to find fault with. Both of these seem like books that, as far back as the New 52 days if not even in the mid-2000s, DC was too much in their own IP to publish these even if the fans wanted them — “Surely three Batgirls would be too confusing for the audience” and “We can’t have Booster and Beetle running around when this here Big 7 is the JLA” (is how I presume the conversations might go).

DC Trade Solicitations for January 2023 - Batman/Superman: World's Finest, Joker Vol. 3, Absolute Dark Nights: Death Metal, Nice House on the Lake Vol. 2, Superman: Warworld Revolution, Batgirls Vol. 2, Adam Strange Deluxe, DC by McDuffie

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Well, the DC Comics January 2023 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations are unremarkable overall, but I’m much happier seeing 23 books on the list instead of last month’s eight! (Even if a handful of them are paperbacks of hardcovers.)

Mostly regular series collections for me this month. I tell you what, the second Nice House on the Lake collection almost got this month’s cover spot, except I’m real excited for Mark Waid’s Batman/Superman: World’s Finest and whatever the next-next big thing it’s leading in to at DC. Action Comics, Wonder Woman, Batgirls, Swamp Thing, and Joker are all buys for me.

I’m pleased to see Batman: The Dark Knight Detective keep chugging along. I’ll be glad when that series is over not because I’m glad to see it over, but to be satisfied all of those issues are finally collected (do the Super-titles next!). DC Universe by Dwayne McDuffie is a deserved collection, and I adore how Adam Strange: Between Two Worlds brings together stories from across eras into a cohesive whole.

Let’s take a look at the full list.

Absolute Dark Nights: Death Metal

Collects issues #1–7 of the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo event, in Absolute format. Includes "behind-the-scenes art ..., original pencil pages, and a brand-new introduction."

Adam Strange: Between Two Worlds: The Deluxe Edition

I rather wish DC would do more like this for their "minor" characters. This is the Richard Burning and Andy Kubert's three-issue Adam Strange: The Man of Two Worlds 1990 post-Crisis miniseries, Mark Waid's JLA #20-21 from 1998, and Andy Diggle and Pascal Ferry's eight-issue Adam Strange: Planet Heist from 2004 (which I reviewed 16 years ago). Three different creative teams separated by years, but picking up from one another to tell a related story. It's not by any stretch the full modern history of Adam Strange, but it's a good overview of his pre-Flashpoint years. Martian Manhunter could use a collection like this, Red Tornado, etc.

Aquaman & the Flash: Voidsong

Movie star meets movie star in paperback by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing. I guess I had some idea this might tie in to Aquaman/Green Arrow: Deep Target, but the creative teams are totally different.

Batgirls Vol. 2

The second collection by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad, in paperback in March. I'm not going to spoil the guest starts in this one (as the solicitations do), but I'm very excited and I'm probably going to have to go back and finish reading a series I didn't finish before.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: The Neighborhood

Paperback collection of Mariko Tamaki’s issues #1034–1039. Per my review, a great premise with a not-as-satisfying ending.

Batman: The Dark Knight Detective Vol. 7

Collects Batman #474, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #27, Detective Comics #634-638, #641, and #643, and Detective Comics Annual #4. Batman and Legends are in there as part of the "Destroyer" crossover, which introduced a new-look Gotham in line with the first Tim Burton movie; the annual is an "Armageddon 2001" tie-in. Stories written by Kelley Puckett, Louise Simonson, Peter Milligan, and Alan Grant.

Just for a little comparison, Detective issues #639-640 that aren’t included here are in the Batman: The Caped Crusader Vol. 5 collection; issue #642 is in the Caped Crusader Vol. 6 collection. Meanwhile, Batman #474, collected here, would have fallen between Caped Crusader Vols. 5 and 6. Caped Crusader Vol. 6 was, I’m pretty sure, the final volume of that series, ending just before the Prelude to Knightfall collection. I’m guessing Dark Knight Detectivehas one more volume to go to end before "Knightfall" and Detective #654.

Batman: The Detective

Paperback of Tom Taylor and Andy Kubert’s six-issue miniseries, following the hardcover. I liked this one, an unexpected Batman Elseworld.

Batman: The Imposter

Paperback, following the hardcover, of the Batman-movie adjacent miniseries by Mattson Tomlin and Andrea Sorrentino. I reviewed Batman: Imposter and thought it was pretty well done.

Batman/Superman: World’s Finest Vol. 1: The Devil Nezha

In hardcover by Mark Waid and Dan Mora, coming in March and collecting issue #1-6.

Birds of Prey: The End of the Beginning

Following the recent Birds of Prey: Whitewater, this is another larger-page-count collection of the original Birds of Prey series. Said to include issues #113-#127, so the original Birds of Prey: Metropolis or Dust and Platinum Flats, give or take a couple issues from elsewhere. Mostly written by Tony Bedard with a couple issues by Sean McKeever; this was after Gail Simone departed with issue #108 and before she returned for the second series.

Blue Beetle: Jaime Reyes Book Two

Second expanded collection of the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle series. This collects issues #13-25 of the original 2006 series, so right on track (previous solicitations for this book seemed to reference issues from the middle of the Rebirth run). Still remains to be seen if the Blue Beetle movie goes ahead and how that might affect this.

Bruce Wayne: Not Super

Just love the offbeat premises of these DC young reader books. In this, by Stuart Gibbs and Berat Pekmezci, Bruce Wayne is the only non-powered kid in a school full of superheroes.

The DC Universe by Dwayne McDuffie

Collects a variety of Dwayne McDuffie's non-Milestone DC work, including Action Comics #847, Demon #26-29, Impulse #60, JLA Showcase 80-Page Giant #1, Batman: Gotham Knights #27, Sins of Youth: Kid Flash/Impulse #1, and Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #33-35, as well as a tribute(s) from the Static Shock Special.

Doom Patrol by Gerard Way and Nick Derington: The Deluxe Edition

Wouldn't mind seeing one of these for each of the Young Animal series. This is the Young Animal Doom Patrol #1-12 and Doom Patrol: Weight of the Worlds #1-7 by Gerard Way and Nick Derington, like it says on the tin, though lacking what seems to be the pretty essential Milk Wars material.

Girl Taking Over: A Lois Lane Story

Along with Bruce Wayne: Not Super, another fun premise for a DC YA book — teenage Lois Lane seeing drama in a summer reporting internship, by Sarah Kuhn and Arielle Jovellanos.

The Joker Vol. 3

Final collection of the James Tynion series, issues #10-15, before the series relaunch, coming in February in hardcover.

The Nice House on the Lake Vol. 2

Wait, wait. Did this slip? Not coming in December, but rather in March? That is just too cruel. Being the final collection of the horror series by James Tynion and Álvaro Martínez Bueno, collecting issues #7-12.

The Sandman Book Five

Collects the Sandman Mystery Theatre crossover special, Sandman Midnight Theatre, Sandman: Endless Nights, and seemingly just the prose edition of Sandman: Dream Hunters, though I'm surprised not also the comics adaption.

Superman: Action Comics Vol. 3: Warworld Revolution

The next collection by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Daniel Sampere, in paperback in February, collecting Action Comics #1043-1046, the Action Comics 2022 Annual #1, and Superman: Warworld Apocalypse. Ends just before the big crossover with Superman: Son of Kal-El.

The Swamp Thing Volume 3: The Parliament of Gears

The final collection of the limited series by Ram V and Mike Perkins, collecting issues #11-16, in paperback in February.

Teen Titans: Robin

Next in the popular YA Teen Titans series by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo. Dick Grayson and Damian are actual brothers here?

Wonder Woman Vol. 3: The Villainy of Our Fears

In paperback in February by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad, following Trial of the Amazons. This is issues #787-794.

Wonder Woman: Who Is Wonder Woman the Deluxe Edition

I reviewed Who Is Wonder Woman? in 2008. Coming back into print since Allan Heinberg wrote the 2017 Wonder Woman movie. With art by Terry and Rachel Dodson.

Review: Batman '89 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

About halfway through Batman '89, I found myself thinking this writer didn’t particularly get the Michael Keaton Bruce Wayne’s voice; shortly thereafter I remembered that the writer is Sam Hamm, verily the screenwriter of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. So maybe what we’re finding here is that, indeed, you just can’t go home again.

I’d read another Batman '89 entry; I’m in favor in principle of the adventures of these characters ongoing. But ultimately I don’t think the six-issue digital-first format served Batman '89 or Superman '78 well. Though something like Batman: Earth One was not significantly shorter than Batman '89 in terms of page count, it seemed like the done-in-one graphic novel format of the Earth One books lent themselves indeed to read like a movie — singular focus, well-defined acts, and so on. Batman '89, in contrast, really reads like a six-issue Batman miniseries, and the ponderousness takes away from the illusion of a movie sequel.1

Review: Superman '78 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 16, 2022

There was a point in time where another good Richard Donner Superman film was what every comics fan wanted, perhaps only rivaled by a another good Tim Burton Batman film, so DC’s recent return to both of these properties is auspicious indeed.

I will go on to say that Robert Venditti and Wilfredo Torres' Superman '78 is imperfect for a few reasons, though these may have more to do with what I was hoping for than what the creative team delivered. But in terms of the voice of Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane or the particular bow of Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent’s shoulders, Venditti and Torres succeed.

This is certainly close enough to be a satisfactory homage if not necessarily a sequel (which may have been all the team was going for). The best news is that Venditti is working on another, because I expect the only place to go from here is up (up, and away).

Review: Suicide Squad: King Shark trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Though meandering at times, far from perfect, Tim Seeley and Scott Kolins' Suicide Squad: King Shark is what most comics should aspire to be. Certainly just a project intended to capitalize on James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad movie, Seeley not only goes so far as to honor elements throughout King Shark’s almost 30 years (!) of DC Comics history, but also dovetails well enough with his own recent Nightwing run.

It is, again, not perfect, but Seeley commits thoroughly to a silly storyline and never skimps on the genuine emotion. Though the plot is full of anthropomorphized animals — Kamandi would feel right at home — Seeley never treats the characters with a hint of scorn. Where books (and particularly Suicide Squad books) have a tendency to present the characters as objects of ridicule for the audience, King Shark never blinks an eye at portraying a shark-man protagonist. It makes for the best kind of comics, one that immerses itself in the fantastical and tells a compelling story to boot.

Review: Batman: One Dark Knight hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, October 09, 2022

Among Batman Black Label books that swiftly come to mind — Batman: Last Knight on Earth, Batman: Three Jokers, even Batman: DamnedBatman: One Dark Knight feels the least of these. Undoubtedly a large part of this book is for the purpose of having another Batman book out there with Jock’s art in it, not an unworthy goal by any means, but the plot was perhaps secondary.

And it isn’t even that One Dark Knight is poorly written, because it’s not. There’s the semblance of a good mystery that reveals itself in the end. For a Batman traditionalist, this is a self-contained tale anchored by Batman, Alfred, and Commissioner Gordon, the kind of thing that would be worthwhile for a Batman movie fan. There’s enough overlap between the styles of Jock and Andrea Sorrentino that it feels One Dark Knight could sit comfortably on the shelf with the equally movie-friendly Batman: The Imposter, even as they present considerably different Batmen.

But as opposed to the strong authorial voice of Scott Snyder’s Batman: Last Knight on Earth, the callbacks inherent in Geoff John’s Batman: Three Jokers, and the new Bat-world-building of Mattson Tomlin’s Imposter, I was less able to point to a specific vision or something being said about Batman in Jock’s One Dark Knight. The book’s “classic Batman” approach might as easily be its selling point as its downfall, a book that works in the traditional Batman formula but fails to rise above it.